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Jeremy Lin and the Power of Social Media

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Perhaps you’ve recently heard about the latest NBA phenom, Jeremy Lin. The New York Knicks guard made a lot of headlines lately for his wicked ball-handling, his Taiwanese ancestry (he is the first player of such heritage in the NBA), his Ivy League education, his religious inclinations, and his former lack of prestige (he received no sports scholarships out of high school and went undrafted after college, making his recent emergence as an instant superstar on the pro-ball scene somewhat unexpected, to say the least). Or perhaps it has more to do with the fact that his name provides so many easy puns for the front page (“Linsanity”, “Lincredible”, “May the Best Man Lin”…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). But the real reason that just about everyone in the world has now heard this guy’s name, despite the fact that his first game with the Knicks was less than two months ago, is that he has exploded on social media.

He isn’t the first professional athlete to get a boost thanks to the power of social networking (Tim Tebow, anyone?) and he certainly won’t be the last, but it is somewhat surprising that he is trending now, more than a year after the start of his professional career. Before signing with the Knicks, Lin was well received by the San Francisco Bay crowd during his 2010-2011 season with the Golden State Warriors, although his hometown fame was largely attributed to the large Asian population and their penchant to cheer any time Lin touched the ball (which was not very frequently). In fact, he was also picked up by the Houston Rockets on waivers before the start of the 2011-2012 season, although it wasn’t long before they waived him to the Knicks.

So what the heck happened? Well, for starters he’s been blowing up on the basketball court. It seems that all the development he did with his two former teams helped him to prepare for an actual shot at dunking with the big boys. Too bad the time the Warriors put in helping him to get his sea legs will now be to the benefit of a rival team. But even beyond that, he seems to have developed some kind of presence on the court, something riveting. People can’t seem to get enough of him. And there’s been plenty of talk about his status as an up-and-coming role model on several different fronts (with all the hard work, perseverance, and whatnot).

But what really clinched the deal was his virtual ascendency. If you do a search for Jeremy Lin on Google, the search engine returns over 500 million results (this is a guy nobody heard of two months ago). He currently has over 300,000 followers on Twitter, and according to TwitterCounter.com, all but a few thousand of those have added him to their feeds in the last several days. And if you follow CBS sports analyst Greg Anthony, Lin is apparently “the biggest story in the NBA thus far.” A bold claim. He couldn’t do more for his image if he was paying major money for a digital marketing campaign. It’s still sort of unclear why Lin is trending so hard on social media sites, but the way these things come and go, this baller could lose his “Linstant Replay” status Lin a New York minute.